Jan 16, 2009

A Hussar Officer on Horseback

A Hussar Officer on Horseback


John Singleton Copley

(American, 1738–1815)

Black and white chalk

Support: Blue wove paper (faded)

Sheet: 27.6 x 22.1 cm (10 7/8 x 8 11/16 in.)

Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund 1950.216


Did you know?

The soldier wears a heavy military headdress called a “busby,” originally worn by Hungarian hussars and adopted by American hussar (light cavalry) regiments during the 1800s.


John Singleton Copley left Boston at the start of the American Revolution in 1775 to pursue his career in England, where he achieved distinction both as a portraitist and a history painter. Following a method often employed in France, Copley generally drew on blue paper to serve as a middle tone, working up the image using black chalk to indicate outlines and shadows, and white chalk for highlights. He made this drawing as an early study for the figure of the prince of Orange in his last major history painting, Battle of the Pyrenees (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), in 1812–15. The figure is garbed in the uniform of a “hussar,” a light cavalry officer equipped with a saber, regiments of which played an important role in the Napoleonic Wars (1803–15). In the final composition, Copley used the pose not for Orange, but for the Duke of Wellington, changing the facial features and adjusting the position of the figure’s arms.

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